Tuesday, 5 July, 2022

Declining wheat production increases import dependency

The production of wheat, the second most important staple food crop in Bangladesh, has declined drastically, resulting in a rise in import dependency and risking food security.

Production of wheat stood at 19.88 lakh tonnes in 1999. Wheat production declined to 11 lakh tonnes in 2022, according to IndexMundi, an international data portal with country-level facts and statistics.

Bangladesh’s wheat production was decreasing by 0.44 per cent a year on an average from 1999 to 2020, according to Knoema, a comprehensive source of global decision-making data.

However, wheat consumption has increased during the period due to population growth and food habit change.

Bangladesh procured 67.34 lakh tonnes of wheat in FY 2019-20, up from 31 lakh tonnes in FY 2014-15, according to the National Board of Revenue (NBR) data.

The country imported 55.5 lakh tonnes of wheat in the first 10 months (July-April) of outgoing FY 2021-22, which was 54.53 lakh tonnes for the entire FY21, according to NBR.

Tofazzal Islam, professor and Head of Plant Biotechnology Discipline of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Agricultural University (BSMRAU) said blast and frightening fungal disease shaved off wheat cultivation in Bangladesh since 2016.  “The blast disease affected wheat fields in Jashore, Kushtia, Chuadanga, Meherpur, Jhenidah, Magura, Barisal, and Bhola. The government also imposed a ban on wheat cultivation in six districts,” he said.

The outbreak of blast discouraged farmers in the regions to continue wheat farming, shifting to produce other crops found economically viable, he said.

Most of the farmers started to cultivate tobacco in Kushtia, Chuadanga, Meherpur and Jhenidah areas, added the professor.

He also said different blast-resistant wheat varieties have been developed in the country, which will help increase the production of wheat within a couple of years in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) data also show that both the acreage and production of wheat have been declining in the last 22 years.